POMONA, CA ---- For only the third time in the last fifteen seasons John Force Racing did not advance a Funny Car to the final round of the Circle K NHRA Winternationals. Robert Hight drove his Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to a semi-final finish today at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. JFR had won the previous five Winternationals and seven of last nine; Hight, 2006, 2008 and 2011; John Force, 2010, 2012 and 2014; and Courtney Force, 2013. Hight will leave the first stop of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in third place in the Mello Yello Funny Car point standings.

Hight, the No. 7 qualifier, outran veteran Tim Wilkerson 4.066 seconds to 4.385 seconds in the opening round. In the second round Hight did not have lane choice against Tommy Johnson Jr. but a superior reaction time gave Hight the advantage he would need for a hole shot win, 4.085 seconds to a quicker 4.080.

Going into the semi-final round Hight had lane choice over Ron Capps but a yet diagnosed malfunction caused his Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS to drive into tire smoke about 100 feet after Hight left the starting line.  

“We had some kind of malfunction in that semi-final race. It was something we haven’t seen before. We will figure it out and be ready for Phoenix with this Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car,” said Hight, a three-time Winternationals winner. “It was good to get a couple round wins and we are leaving here third in the points. Last season we lost in the second round and then went to six straight finals. We had a great test session in Phoenix so we are ready to get back there.”

Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car driver Courtney Force qualified in the No. 1 spot on Saturday with her first official three-second run, a 3.995 ET at over 322 mph. In the first round she lined up beside Gary Densham with lane choice.

“We had a good start to our weekend out here at the Winternationals in Pomona. It was the first race out here at my home track with the new sponsors on board, Chevy, Peak Antifreeze and BlueDEF, Lucas Oil and of course Traxxas on the side of my Camaro. We got the weekend started on a high note and went No. 1 qualifier and ran a 3.995 at 322 mph. It put us in the No. 1 spot for the weekend and that’s exactly where we needed to be,” said Force

This was the second time the pair have raced with Densham defeating Force in Seattle in 2012 and today the 26-year-old driver was looking to even the score. She got a big starting line advantage, .087 to .132, and posted a 4.097 at 312.42 mph to Densham’s tire-smoking 5.422 ET at 137.71 mph.

“We got a good start today. Obviously it was huge that we were able to break through and run in the three-second zone for the first time at a national event so I’m very proud of my team. (Crew chiefs) Ron Douglas and Dan Hood gave me a great car through qualifying. Unfortunately we lost out on a run in Q4 due to rain, but we came out here on race day and had Gary Densham in round one and we were able to make a pretty good pass straight down the race track,” said Force.

The first round win put her in the next round, but without lane choice next to Del Worsham. This was the fourteenth time the two have met on race day, the first time they have raced at Pomona and the eighth time they have met in the second round. This is also the first time Force has lost in the last five matchups.

“We came out in round two running Worsham and unfortunately our car stumbled a little bit. Our Traxxas Chevy Camaro smoked the tires right at the hit. I tried to pedal it to recover, but he was flying down there and got that win light. We’re just excited that we did get a good head start at the races this weekend and we’re excited to get to Phoenix,” said Force.

Seven-time Winternationals winner John Force was trying to reverse a statistical anomaly in his first round match-up with Bob Bode. Force was 11-0 versus the veteran Funny Car driver since 2000 Force has only won one round of racing on odd numbered years at the season opening event. Fate would not be on Force’s side as the No. 3 qualifier smoked the tires in his Peak Antifreeze Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car on his run and had to watch as Bode pedaled his Funny Car to victory for the first time.

“We just didn’t win and that is why we come to the races. The bottom line is the race cars didn’t react the way we thought they would. We were probably too aggressive. We didn’t get out run; we just went up in smoke. We will learn from that,” said the defending Winternationals winner. “It is the start of the season. We did OK we qualified in the top half of the field and I think we represented the sponsors like Peak, Lucas Oil, Traxxas, Auto Club, Chevy and Mac Tools  well. We had a great crowd at Pomona at Auto Club Raceway. I have no complaints. You always want to win but I take the losing with the winning. I am a good sport.”

“Races are won and lost on the starting line. You saw Robert Hight in the second round. He won on a hole-shot and some days you just have the magic. Robert is great on the tree. In the big picture for John Force Racing to come out here with all the new sponsors and the changes; that is a lot to deal with. My job is to number one sell product. I wasn’t just hired to win races. They go together. We deliver.”

In the Top Fuel ranks Brittany Force and the John Force Next Generation team were impacted by the loss of the fourth qualifying session. The third year driver qualified No. 8 for the second consecutive season at the season opening race. For the young team data and experience is as valuable as round wins. With only three qualifying runs the team was simply at a data disadvantage but Force did not accept that as the reason for her first round upset loss to Leah Pritchett.

“I definitely think our Top Fuel team needed that last qualifying run yesterday. We had three good runs but one more would have helped us out to lock in a tune up on this race car,” said Force. “We are starting a brand new season and we only got three runs here before eliminations. All the race cars were short changed on that last run so we all had the same amount of runs. Every team had to deal with it.”

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FUNNY CAR – 1. Matt Hagan, 107; 2. Ron Capps, 94; 3. Del Worsham, 74; 4. Robert Hight, Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 73; 5. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 61; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr, 60; 7. John Hale, 51; 8. Bob Bode, 46; 9. John Force, Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS, 40; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 38

TOP FUEL – 1. Shawn Langdon, 124; 2. Antron Brown, 92; 3. Spencer Massey, 78; 4. Larry Dixon, 73; 5. Richie Crampton, 59; 6. Doug Kalitta, 56; 7. Steve Torrence, 54; 8. Leah Pritchett, 52; 9. Tony Schumacher, 36; 10. Brittany Force, JFR Next Generation, 33.

PRO STOCK – 1. Jason Line, 123; 2. Drew Skillman, 97; 3. Erica Enders Stevens, 81; 4. Roger Brogdon, 80; 5. Chris McGaha, 55; 6. Larry Morgan, 54; 7T. Shane Gray, 52; 7T. Allen Johnson, 52; 9T. Greg Anderson, 34; 9T. Vincent Nobile, 34


JOHN FORCE, 65, Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS

Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.021 seconds, 320.28 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (2nd Quickest of Q1 and Q3)

Race Results: Lost to Bob Bode.

ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 7th at 4.045 seconds, 319.60 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

Race Results: Beat Tim Wilkerson, Tommy Johnson Jr, Lost to Ron Capps.

COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 1st at 3.995 seconds, 322.65 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q3)

Race Results: Beat Gary Densham, Lost to Del Worsham

BRITTANY FORCE, 28, JFR Next Generation Top Fuel Dragster

Qualifying: 8th at 3.779 seconds, 323.97 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

Race Results: Lost to Leah Pritchett.

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Dusty Brandel

President of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Inc. Worked with Mike Hollander since Tapsis, Compuserve, etc. and has posted to the website since the beginning. First Female photo-journalist to be given a garage and pit pass for the NASCAR garage, 1972 at Ontario Motor Speedway. One of first seven female writers, photographers given access to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage and pits in 1971. Past President of Greater Los Angeles Press Club, 1992-96, and first female editor of the 8-Ball publication for the Press Club

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Volume 2015, Issue 2, Posted 12:50 AM, 02.09.2015